Kansas parent Mark Ellis and the controversial sex ed poster
A middle school in Kansas has removed a poster that used to supplement some of the sex ed curricula for eighth graders, following complaints from one parent who took his case to the press. The poster, entitled “How Do People Express Their Sexual Feelings?”, lists various sexual activities like “grinding,” “oral sex,” “kissing,” and “sexual fantasy.” It sparkedconsiderable controversy last week after one 13-year-old student snapped a photo of it and showed it to her father, who threatened to remove her from the sex ed class.
When Mark Ellis first saw his daughter’s photo, he initially thought the poster was a prank. But after he contacted officials in the Shawnee Mission School District, he learned that it was part of an approved human sexuality curriculum — and he was extremely upset that the material had gotten approval in the first place.
“You know this had to pass through enough hands that someone should have said, ‘Wait a minute, these are 13-year-old kids, we do not need to be this in-depth with this sexual education type of program,’ ” Ellis told a local Fox affiliate.
A spokeswoman for the Kansas school district, Leigh Anne Neal, explained that the poster is one small part of the school’s curriculum for middle schoolers — and it’s supposed to be part of a larger lesson, not a standalone resource. Neal pointed out that a teacher-led discussion about these type of sexual expressions would provide important context for the terms that appear on the poster.
That’s not good enough for Ellis, who wants the entire curriculum to be changed. “It makes me wonder what our country has come to when kids get something like this thrown in front of them,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Friday. “I couldn’t believe something like that was going on in school.”
Not every parent is objecting to the school’s sex ed class, however. Jennifer Watland, whose daughter Lyssa attends the middle school in question, does not plan to remove her from the course. Although Watland referred to the poster as “alarming,” she pointed out that many 13-year-olds have probably already learned these words from their friends.
“It’s just a poster — eye-popping, but it’s better they show us now than later on,” eighth-grader Lyssa Watland told a local Fox affiliate. “There are kids honestly that are my age who are sexually active and they don’t know the consequences.”
Ultimately, the controversy over the poster — which several news outlets referred to as “X-rated” — spurred Shawnee Mission’s superintendent to remove it. On Friday, Superintendent Jim Hinson sent a message to parents assuring them that the poster is under review. “Concerns were expressed over a poster that was hanging in a classroom at a middle school that was part of a supplemental instructional resource,” Hinson wrote. “At this time, the district has suspended the use of the Making A Difference instructional resource supplement pending a detailed review of the material.”
In 2007, Kansas updated its sex education from abstinence-only to what’s called “abstinence-plus.” Now, sex ed courses are still required to stress abstinence as the best approach to teen sexuality, but they can also provide information about STDs and birth control. Parents must give their permission for their children to enroll in sex ed classes, and each school district decides how to handle that process.
Although opponents of comprehensive sex ed typically claim that giving kids information about sexuality will spur them to have more sex, that’s been proven false. In fact, kids who receive comprehensive sex ed in school are more likely to delay sex. Nonetheless, Kansas is hardly the first state to spark controversy over concerns that young students are being exposed to “explicit” material. Last year, Chicago became the largest urban school district to implement comprehensive sex ed courses at every age level, leading to an uproar over “kindergarten sex ed.”